February 9, 2024 |
Photo – US Forest Service patch – Bigfoot99 file photo
Governor Mark Gordon has told the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the Biden Administration’s management plan for old-growth forests is a “misguided, top-down proposal that should go no further.”
In a comment letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Governor Gordon asked the Forest Service to halt the policy making and said that protection efforts should be evaluated at a forest level and involve local cooperating agencies. The Wyoming governor also said that the Forest Service’s top-down approach fails to meet public participation requirements, including a transparent, collaborative process.
“This proposal seems to indicate the Forest Service has abandoned its policy and the commitments made in the 2012 Planning Rule when it comes to public input, transparency, local knowledge, and the importance of decisions being made by those that are closest to the forest,” the Governor wrote. “This is made clear by the proposal’s exclusion of counties as cooperating agencies and the decision to amend 128 management plans at the same time with the responsible official being as far away from the forests as you can get.”
The proposal is a poor use of time and resources, the Governor wrote. He noted that the Forest Service in Wyoming and nationwide already struggles to revise, implement and monitor existing forest plans.
“The Forest Service, the public, and old-growth would be better served if the limited staff time and resources were used to address the real threats of wildfire, disease, and insect infestation through active management, plan revisions, implementation, and consistent accurate monitoring,” Governor Gordon added.
The governor’s letter is in response the federal agency’s Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for managing Old-Growth Forest Conditions across the National Forest System.
National Forests and Grasslands make up 9.2 million acres in the state and are an integral part of the landscape, economy and culture of Wyoming.
In his letter, the governor said the management plan “is a misguided, top-down proposal that should go no further.”
The governor described the agency’s proposal to amend 128 Management Plans hasty and ill-conceived. The result, Governor Gordon writes in his letter, will undermine public trust in the agency and the science of land management.
The governor’s overarching points is that the proposed amendment is not necessary, the proposed process fails to meet public participation requirements and that it violates NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act.
The governor concludes his letter, saying that the State of Wyoming asks the Forest Service not to move forward with its proposal to protect old-growth forests without seeking local input.
Governor Gordon also reminded the Ag Secretary that Forest Service should stay true to its congressionally-mandated role of multiple use, “and not give any further credence to the concept that conservation and multiple use are incompatible.”